Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Baby, It's Cold Outside...

... but inside the friendly confines (literally confines, if not literally friendly) of roofed-in Miller Park on Opening Day yesterday, the weather was admirably suited to the proceedings therein, which principally involved the San Francisco Giants using the Milwaukee Brewers' pitching staff for extra batting practice.

As Jon Miller, Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow and the Giants' broadcast team chuckled at the contrast between the snow blowing sideways outside and the fans swilling beer inside, Bruce Bochy's revamped lineup pounded out fifteen hits, drew five walks, and capitalized every which way on those opportunities en route to a 12-3 blowout win that should please all but the most hopelessly pessimistic among us. Oh sure, there's bound to be some nervous nellies pointing out that our ace, Madison Bumgarner, labored like a draft horse just to complete the minimum five, throwing 101 pitches and allowing a most un-Bum-like ten baserunners, three of whom scored, two via the long ball. But in true Roland Kirk style, we're going to focus on the "bright moments" that made this a most enjoyable Opening Day 2016.

First, there isn't an automatic out in this lineup. When Matt Duffy and Brandon Crawford are slotted into the six and seven spots, you know your group is loaded for bear. Duffy drove in four runs, including the Giants' first two, while "Craw" was on base twice and scored a run-- as did every Giant starter including Bumgarner. Even Gregor Blanco, who got into the game late, went 1-for-2 with a run scored. When they weren't hitting home runs, the Giants were hitting two-run singles, which is likely how this team is going to be getting it done day after day. They stranded only seven while scoring twelve, which is a big uptick from last year's trend.

Hey, that Denard Span fella sure knows how to make an entrance, don't he? Five RBI in his Giants debut, including a three-run homer that blew it open and kicked off the back-to-back-to-back spectacle in the eighth. The last time the Giants uncorked three straight home runs was a full decade ago, back in the Barry Bonds days. Matt Cain will remember that day; for the rest of the team it's the stuff of legend.

For the first time in Opening Day history-- and the first time in any game since who knows when-- both starting pitchers batted eighth in the lineup. "Bum" held up his end by drawing a walk with one out in the fifth. Angel Pagan, batting ninth as a "pre-leadoff" man, then doubled, setting up Span's second RBI of the day. Whether "Boch" continues this lineup chicanery with pitchers other than Bumgarner remains to be seen, but the early returns look pretty good. 

It's hard to find a "turning point" in a 12-3 game, but Pagan's multi-hop throw to the plate, which nailed Scooter Gennett trying to score from second with two out, emphatically ended the fourth inning, and ended a Brewer rally which had the tying run ready to come to the plate. Other NL teams are best advised to take note that we've got a centerfielder out there in left field! 

Joe Panik belted a home run at the plate, and turned a double play in the field, which speaks to good health and undiminished skills. 

New Giant Corey Gearrin made his debut in the best of all possible situations-- big lead, no pressure, start of the seventh inning-- and retired the side without incident.

So, with one in the bank and good feeling all around, now the two most expensive pitchers in San Francisco history will go out and start the last two games of this series. Brimming with confidence, we are. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The San Francisco Giants Open the 2016 Season!

Madison Bumgarner, L
At 26, already rates as greatest SF southpaw of all time 
Johnny Cueto, R
Anything and everything possible with his level of talent 
Jeff Samardzija, R
Bochy, Righetti think the "Shark" can "pull a Schmidt" here 
Jake Peavy, R
Famed for lousy spring numbers, he needs to stay healthy
Matt Cain, R
It's all about the pain, or, more importantly, the lack of it
Chris Heston, R 
Last season proved he can step in as consistent starter
Santiago Casilla, R
Won't keep the closer job long unless he regains 2014 form
Hunter Strickland, R 
Likely being groomed as "closer of the near future" 
George Kontos, R
A key component to the continuation of bullpen "Core Four"
Sergio Romo, R 
Longest-tenured Giant is at a career crossroads
Javier Lopez, L
He's been so automatic, any dropoff comes as a shock
Josh Osich, L
Is he the new "Jeremy Affeldt?" Giants hope so
Cory Gearrin, R
"Mr Irrelevant" is 30 and for now, Bochy's 13th pitcher 

Buster Posey, c
Decision soon on his long-term future behind plate? 
Hunter Pence, rf  
Pence in the lineup means runs on the scoreboard
Brandon Crawford, ss
Has established himself as one of the best in the game
Denard Span, cf
Giants gambling on a bounce-back year from this veteran
Matt Duffy, 3b
May be team's steadiest player despite relative inexperience
Joe Panik, 2b
Says his health is 100%; we all know his game is
Brandon Belt, 1b 
Let's hope, again, a full season brings out his best 
Angel Pagan, lf
We all hope the move to left will yield 120 or so starts
Kelby Tomlinson, if
"Clark Kent" gives Giants super-powered infield depth
Gregor Blanco, of
If he starts fewer than 80 games, we'll have a great outfield
Ehire Adrianza, if
Earned the job by hitting over .300 this spring
Trevor Brown, c
Clearly outplayed Susac, who may be trade bait come summer